Warriors live by an honor code. What the Russian military is doing in Ukraine are barbaric war crimes committed by soulless savages. It is time to put an end to this.
The shoes. What I will never forget are the shoes. The piles and piles of dusty old shoes are the visceral images seared in my mind from my initial military indoctrination. They smell like old clothes kept in your grandmother’s attic for years. Up close, you can see that some are clearly from children, and others are from adult women and men. There are shoes of every size. These are clearly not military-issued uniform shoes. These are what remains of the genocide of millions of innocent civilians. As the poem on the wall reads, “We are the shoes, we are the last witnesses…” to one of the worst atrocities in human history.
In the summer of 1995, I was a plebe aspiring to become a U.S. Naval Officer. Our seasoned instructors took us on an unforgettable field trip to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. We saw clearly the horrors of a war perpetrated by Nazi Germany without warrior ethics. It was meant to be prophylactic for us — a heavy dose of preventative medicine that would embolden us to keep something like this from ever happening again.
In a more dramatic version of this immersive experience, U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower (who later became President) made a point of personally going to see the Nazi concentration camps and war crimes with his own eyes. He wisely brought cameramen and reporters with him to interview survivors and document the atrocities. Upon his return, he famously wrote:
I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to ‘propaganda’.
In our ethics and leadership studies at Annapolis, we engaged in frequent character development discussions to establish a true north for our moral compasses. We knew that one day we might face tough decisions under the stress and uncertainty of combat and still need to do the right…